USB over iSCSI

Posted on July 8, 2010

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This week we discovered our lab hardware may not have enough storage space available for an upcoming project. As a temporary solution, the obvious idea of an external drive came up. And died almost immediately when I was told I cannot connect an external USB disk to an installation of VMWare ESX. I have no idea whether this is correct, but it kicked creativity into high gear:

The VMWare ESX instances running on several blades all use iSCSI…

And I heard somewhere that Microsoft has an iSCSI software target – meaning you can use a Windows machine to present a “disk” on the network using the iSCSI protocol.

Unfortunately it is only available for use with Windows Storage Server. Which is only available to OEMs.

Except, also available to MSDN and TechNet subscribers!

Off to MSDN Subscriber Downloads, grab a copy of Windows Storage Server 2008 and the iSCSI Software Target – several gigabytes worth of a download later we have WSS2008 installing into a Hyper-V guest on my laptop.

Because the Lenovo T500 I’m using doesn’t have eSATA, I have to resort to an Express Card to get real speed, but whether eSATA or USB 2.0, Windows and Hyper-V doesn’t care where you create your virtual disks.

My laptop is now hosting a Windows Storage Server 2008 virtual machine, presented on the 1Gbps network interface, offering an iSCSI target onto that network.

The test client was the very same laptop: since it is running Windows Server 2008 R2, it has an iSCSI Initiator included and it happily mounts the disk presented by Windows Storage Server.

Sunday morning we’ll find out if VMWare ESX is compatible with the Microsoft software implementation of iSCSI.

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Posted in: Lab Management